Friday, 9 October 2015

The danger of the genre stamp

I went into this whole writing thing as a science fiction writer. I read a lot of sci-fi, watched a lot of sci-fi and enjoyed most sci-fi. It stood to reason that I would write in the genre I enjoyed consuming.

And it was quite a bit of fun. I typed a lot and this thing called a book happened, and there was sunshine, rainbows, butterflies and free chocolate. (Because free chocolate is the best thing ever.)

For my next book, I stuck with science fiction because I had already stamped my forehead with the sci-fi stamp. ((Metaphorically, of course.) That particular stamp is very cool. It's 3D and revolves and opens a spaceship door to escape into the next galaxy and <insert sci-fi babble here>.)



My novel wasn't nearly as hardcore sci-fi as Star Wars,
but I think it was still sci-fi. *shrugs* Anyways, it's a good excuse
to put a Star Wars poster in.


But then. Oh, the horror.

It turned into a sci-fi fantasy novel.

I was very confused, as you could imagine. I was a science fiction writer! I was the creator of evil experiments, gadgets and secret organizations! I did not write fantasy!

After several days of panicking, I made myself breathe. It was a sci-fi fantasy novel. There was still some sci-fi in there, no need to panic.

So obviously for my next novel I dived head first into the high fantasy genre, and I'm okay with that.
But how did this strange genre jumping thing happen? More importantly, is it okay? (And most importantly, will there still be free chocolate?)

Well, how it happened was pretty easy to answer. They were different stories. One story had to be a sci-fi and the other had to be a mix, and the last one had to be a high fantasy. There was no other way for me to tell my story with the characters without writing in those genres. It was in the name of art, and I'm cool with that.

Is this genre jumping alright, though? You hear lots of advice about keeping to a single genre so you don't confuse your reader. After all, if your favourite author writes historical romance then it's going to be a bit of a surprise if you pick up their newest book to find it's set on Saturn where the last remains of humanity must defend themselves from invading space bugs.

For some reason, the Internet is short of images involving a
desperate last stand against invading space bugs on Saturn.
Spidey's filling in for it, don't you worry. 

The thing is, though, that if you stick with the same genre then that stamp on your forehead is going to dig into your skull and start defining you. You'll be known for writing one particular genre, and the longer you write the same thing the harder it'll be to escape. (And may I point out that it's okay to keep writing the same thing, but if you want a break then it'll be harder to do so. Not only will your readers get upset, but you'll probably have a hard time adjusting, too.)

What's a writer to do, then? I would suggest trying different genres, even if you're not too sure about it. I had no clue how to write a high fantasy (and it probably shows in my writing) but I'm learning something. And I'm enjoying it.

There are only two conditions. One, don't write in a genre you don't like. I'm sure you're awesome, but you probably won't be good at something you dislike. Two, keep your style and voice. Without them you're floating in a vast, endless ocean with no life raft. (Not a past time I'd recommend.)

(And to answer the chocolate question, yes, there probably will still be free chocolate. And on a side note, maybe not all of your readers will appreciate your new direction. Some will, though, and you might pick up new readers. (And on another side note, my next genre to try out is contemporary, because why not?))

If you keep expanding your horizons, pushing the limits, taking risks, you'll find your writing will improve. And even if it's a total failure, you've learned something. In my book, that's not a failure.

Why would we want to box ourselves in a tiny corner of the universe when there's whole galaxies to explore? I challenge you to wipe your genre stamp off your forehead and replace it with a writer's stamp. Get out there and explore!


Have you ever genre jumped? Did you enjoy it or would you rather not repeat the experience? Comment below!

10 comments:

  1. I think it's actually good to combine genres (within reason). Some of my favorite books are a blend between fantasy and science fiction. It makes the book less likely to fall into the trap of "same-old, same-old". *Thumbs-up for the Star Wars pic*. And don't worry, among people who really like splitting hairs, even Star Wars isn't considered hard sci-fi, but a space opera (because it doesn't involve earth/the known universe). Great post!

    Are you excited for "The Force Awakens"?

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    1. Yep, mixing stuff makes stories even cooler. Artemis Fowl is one of my favourite books of all time and it's a blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Some genres are a little hard to mix (like contemporary and dystopian) but others give the story a new dimension.

      Huh, I did not know that. I kinda group anything with cool science-y stuff under the sci-fi umbrella, and I didn't really realize there was more than one type of sci-fi.

      YES OH MY GOODNESS I'M SO SO SO SO SO SO SO EXCITED IT CANNOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!!! I pretty much die every time I watch the trailer. You?

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    2. I've watched the trailer about 3 or 5 times and I get goosebumps and little stomach butterflies every time. I even watched it over Skype with one of my friends back home so that we could flip out over it together and watch each other's reactions. Episode I was the first movie I ever saw in theaters and Episode II was the first movie I ever saw on opening day, so Star Wars holds a very special place in my heart. I hope it ends up being as good as the trailers make it look!

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    3. That star cruiser gets me every time... That's so cool you were able to share that with your friends! I didn't get to see any of the movies when they were in theaters, that must have been super special. The trailers make it look amazing, and I have faith in JJ Abrams after his fabulous job on Star Trek (I haven't see any of the older ones, though, so I don't know how they stand up to those.) I'M JUST REALLY EXCITED!!!

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  2. You have your own genre and I love it! Take this blog for example, that's a genre in itself!

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  3. *hugs this post* I love, love, love writing sci-fi, but I'm totally cool with genre-hopping. I have a fantasy novel nearing time for the last round of beta readers, and I have a literary novel in the works. I also have ideas for contemporaries and whatnot. I think it's too easy to get boxed in to something we think we're the best at, but that makes it easy to miss out on something we might be even better at, or might enjoy far more than we thought. That's why I like authors like Lauren Oliver who write across the board. And I think there's definitely a niche for people like that, and I think it's a great way to broaden your audience. (Also, sorry for not commenting for the last few days--I've been super busy and lazy and...yeah.)

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one genre hopping! I totally agree. Like yeah, we might be awesome at contemporary, but if we box ourselves in then we'll never discover that our calling is paranormal. Plus it's so much fun to experiment and just enjoy the process of writing without having to worry about writing certain types of stories. I haven't read any of her stuff, but I'll have to check her out. And yeah! Broadening the audience is pretty darn important. (It's all good! It's not like you exactly owe me a comment or anything, and we're all allowed to be busy/lazy. Besides, you've been super supportive. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff!)

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  4. I always find it odd that people always pick Star Wars as their go-to sci-fi movie when really Star Wars is science fantasy. I mean, sure, you have lightsabers and hovercars and whatnot that is sorta sciencey but it's in another world, basically, where good and evil knights duel for power and control as it relates to an evil ruler. And sure, it's not "magic" per se, but there is certainly a supernatural Force holding everything together. In a way, Star Wars itself is genre hopping (because people who watch Star Wars for science are probably not looking for solid science, just made-up science) and I thought that was funny.

    As for myself, I've never really rooted myself in any specific genres, which is probably why I haven't really thought about publishing. I don't really have a niche yet!

    Oh, by the way, I tagged you for a thing: http://semilegacy.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-writers-life-for-me-tag.html

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    1. Well, I may or may not have Star Wars on the brain. Let's just say that December 18th is marked off on my calendar. I do see where you're coming from. I suppose science fiction has more explanation of the actual science and Star Wars conviently skims over that part. I guess it's more fantasy, now that I think of it. My simple minded brain saw spaceships and called it sci-fi.

      I think its great if you find a genre you want to stick with, but if you don't find one then I don't think you should be forced to find one for the sake of it. Good luck with finding/not finding your genre! And thanks for the tag!

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